Lung Cancer Fact Sheet


  • Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the United States. In 1987, it surpassed breast cancer to become the leading cause of cancer deaths in women.1
  • Lung cancer causes more deaths than the next three most common cancers combined (colon, breast and pancreatic). An estimated 159,260 Americans are expected to die from lung cancer in 2014, accounting for approximately 27 percent of all cancer deaths.2
Leading Causes of Cancer Death
  • The number of deaths due to lung cancer has increased approximately 4.3 percent between 1999 and 2010 from 152,156 to 158,318. The number of deaths among men has reached a plateau but the number is still rising among women. In 2010, there were 87,740 deaths due to lung cancer in men and 70,578 in women.3
  • The age-adjusted death rate for lung cancer is higher for men (60.3 per 100,000 persons) than for women (38.1 per 100,000 persons). It also is higher for Blacks (51.4 per 100,000 persons) compared to Whites (48.3 per 100,000 persons). Black men have a far higher age-adjusted lung cancer death rate than White men, while Black and White women have similar rates.3

Prevalence and Incidence

  • Approximately 399,431 Americans are living with lung cancer.4 During 2014, an estimated 224,210 new cases of lung cancer were expected to be diagnosed, representing about 13 percent of all cancer diagnoses.2
  • The majority of living lung cancer patients have been diagnosed within the last five years. Lung cancer is mostly a disease of the elderly. In 2010, 82 percent of those living with lung cancer were 60 years of age or older.4
  • In 2010, Kentucky had the highest age-adjusted lung cancer incidence rates in both men (121.7 per 100,000) and women (79.6 per 100,000). Utah had the lowest age-adjusted cancer incidence rates in both men and women (30.5 per 100,000 and 23.6 per 100,000, respectively).5 These state-specific rates were parallel to smoking prevalence rates.
  • Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, accounting for 1.37 million deaths annually. Cancer accounted for 7.6 million deaths annually, or about 13 percent of the total worldwide deaths.6
  • The National Institutes of Health estimate that cancer care cost the United States an overall $124.6 billion in 2010, $12.1 billion of which is due to lung cancer. Lost productivity due to early death from cancer lead to an additional $134.8 billion in 2005, $36.1 billion of which was due to lung cancer.7

Gender Differences

  • Each year more men are diagnosed with lung cancer, but more women are living with the disease. The rate of new cases in 2010 showed that men develop lung cancer more often than women (66.8 and 49.2 per 100,000 respectively).4
  • The rate of new lung cancer cases (incidence) over the past 36 years has dropped for men (24% decrease), while it has risen for women (100% increase). In 1975, rates were low for women, but rising for both men and women. In 1984, the rate of new cases for men peaked (102.1 per 100,000) and then began declining. The rate of new cases for women increased further, did not peak until 1998 (52.9 per 100,000), and has now started to decline.4

Lung Cancer Incidence Trend by Sex

Racial/Ethnic Differences

  • Blacks are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer than persons of any other racial or ethnic group. The age-adjusted lung cancer incidence rate among Black men is approximately 26 percent higher than for White men, even though their overall exposure to cigarette smoke, the primary risk factor for lung cancer, is lower.4,8
  • The lung cancer incidence rate for Black women is roughly equal to that of White women, despite the fact that they smoke fewer cigarettes.4,8

Survival Rates

  • The lung cancer five-year survival rate (16.6%) is lower than many other leading cancer sites, such as the colon (64.2%), breast (89.2%) and prostate (99.2%).4
  • The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 53.5 percent for cases detected when the disease is still localized (within the lungs). However, only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. For distant tumors (spread to other organs) the five-year survival rate is only 3.9 percent.4
  • Over half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.4

Lung Cancer Diagnosis and Survival by Stage

Smoking-Attributable Lung Cancer

  • Smoking, a main cause of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer, contributes to 80 percent and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in women and men, respectively. Men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Women are 13 times more likely, compared to never smokers.9
  • Between 2005 and 2010, an average of 130,659 Americans (74,300 men and 56,359 women) died of smoking-attributable lung cancer each year. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year.10
  • Nonsmokers have a 20-30 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer if they are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work.11

Other Causes

  • It has been estimated that active smoking is responsible for close to 90 percent of lung cancer cases; radon causes 10 percent, occupational exposures to carcinogens account for approximately 9 to 15 percent and outdoor air pollution 1 to 2 percent. Because of the interactions between exposures, the combined attributable risk for lung cancer can exceed 100 percent.12
  • Exposure to radon is estimated to be the second leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year (range of 8,000 to 45,000). Radon is a tasteless, colorless and odorless gas that is produced by decaying uranium and occurs naturally in soil and rock. The majority of these deaths occur among smokers since there is a greater risk for lung cancer when smokers also are exposed to radon.13
  • Lung cancer can also be caused by occupational exposures, including asbestos, uranium, and coke (an important fuel in the manufacture of iron in smelters, blast furnaces, and foundries). The combination of asbestos exposure and smoking greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer.14
  • Nonsmoking asbes­tos workers are five times more likely to develop lung cancer than non­smokers not ex­posed to asbestos; if they also smoke, the risk factor jumps to 50 or higher.12 Environmental exposures also can increase the risk of lung cancer death.15

Lung Cancer Attributable Cases

For more information on lung cancer, please review the Lung Cancer Morbidity and Mortality Trend Report on our website at or call the American Lung Association at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. CDC WONDER On-line Database, compiled from Compressed Mortality File 1999-2010 Series 20 No. 2P, 2013.
2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures, 2014.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics Report. Deaths: Final Data for 2010. May 8, 2013; 61(04).
4. U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2010.
5. U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. State Cancer Profiles.
6. World Health Organization. Cancer. Fact Sheet No 297. January 2013.
7. U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2011/2012 Update. Costs of Cancer Care.
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 2010. Analysis by the American Lung Association, Research and Program Services Division using SPSS software.
9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the U.S. Surgeon General, 2004.
10. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014.
11. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2006.
12. Alberg AJ, Samet JM. Epidemiology of Lung Cancer. Chest. 2003; 123:21-49.
13. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A Citizen’s Guide to Radon. January 2013.
14. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Toxicology Program. 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC). June 10, 2011.
15. Jerrett M, et al. Spatial Analysis of Air Pollution and Mortality in Los Angeles. Epidemiology. November 2005; 16(6):727-36.

*Racial and ethnic minority terminology reflects those terms used by the Centers For Disease Control.

Early detection of lung cancer can increase survival rates. Call the Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA or talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening.